Classic and Contemporary Poetry
THAT-AIR YOUNG-UN, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY Poet's Biography
First Line: That-air young-un ust to set
Last Line: "now what's it a-talkin' of?"
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Children; Mothers; Rain; Childhood
THAT-AIR young-un ust to set
By the crick here day by day. --
Watch the swallers dip and wet
Their slim wings and skoot away;
Watch these little snipes along
The low banks tilt up and down
'Mongst the reeds, and hear the song
Of the bullfrogs croakin' roun':
Ust to set here in the sun
Watchin' things, and listenun,
'Peared-like, mostly to the roar
Of the dam below, er to
That-air riffle night the shore
Jes' acrost from me and you.
Ust to watch him from the door
Of the mill. -- 'Ud rigg him out
With a fishin'-pole and line --
Dig worms fer him -- nigh about
Jes' spit on his bait! -- but he
Never keered much, 'pearantly,
To ketch fish! -- He'd ruther fine
Out some sunny place, and set
Watchin' things, with droopy head,
And "a-listenun," he said --
"Kind o' listenun above
The old crick to what the wet
Warter was a-talkin' of!"
Jevver hear sich talk as that?
Bothered Mother more'n me
What the child was cipher'n' at. --
Come home onc't and said 'at he
Knowed what the snake-feeders thought
When they grit their wings; and knowed
Turkle-talk, when bubbles riz
Over where the old roots growed
Where he th'owed them pets o' his --
Little turripuns he caught
In the County Ditch and packed
In his pockets days and days! --
Said he knowed what goslin's quacked --
Could tell what the killdees sayes,
And grasshoppers, when they lit
In the crick and "minnies" bit
Off their legs -- "But, blame!" sayes he,
Sort o' lookin' clean above
Mother's head and on through me --
(And them eyes! -- I see 'em yet!) --
"Blame!" he sayes, "ef I kin see,
Er make out, jes' what the wet
Warter is a-talkin' of!"
Made me nervous! Mother, though,
Said best not to scold the child --
The Good Bein' knowed. -- And so
We was only rickonciled
When he'd be asleep. -- And then,
Time, and time, and time again,
We've watched over him, you know --
Her a-sayin' nothin' -- jes'
Kind o' smoothin' back his hair,
And, all to herse'f, I guess,
Studyin' up some kind o' prayer
She ain't tried yet. -- Onc't she said,
Cotin' Scriptur', "'He,'" says she,
In a solemn whisper, "'He
Givuth His beloved sleep!'"
And jes' then I heerd the rain
Strike the shingles, as I turned
Res'less to'rds the wall again.
Pity strong men dast to weep! --
Specially when up above
Thrash! the storm comes down, and you
Feel the midnight plum soaked through
Heart and soul, and wunder, too,
What the warter's talkin' of!
. . . . . . .
Found his hat 'way down below
Hinchman's Ford. -- 'Ves' Anders he
Rid and fetched it. Mother she
Went wild over that, you know --
Hugged it! kissed it! -- Turribul!
My hopes then was all gone too. . . .
Brung him in, with both hands full
O' warter-lilies -- 'peared-like new-
Bloomed fer him -- renched whiter still
In the clear rain, mixin' fine
And finer in the noon sunshine. . . .
Winders of the old mill looked
On him where the hill-road crooked
In on through the open gate. . . .
Laid him on the old settee
On the porch there. Heerd the great
Roarin' dam acrost -- and we
Heerd a crane cry in amongst
The sycamores -- and then a dove
Cutterin' on the mill-roof -- then
Heerd the crick, and thought again,
"Now what's it a-talkin' of?"
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